Posted On: 08/01/2015
Music is not the only thing that rocks at Heavy Riff Brewing Co., an under-the-radar microbrewery in the heart of Dogtown where barbecue, booze and brews are served up to the beat of some serious tunes.
Depending on your musical taste and sensitivity, Heavy Riff either calls you in or kicks you out. The L-shaped taproom is dimly lit by a string of Edison bulbs hovering over the imposing, dark wood bar that appears straight out of a frontier saloon. A handful of signed guitars are mounted behind the massive bar with concert posters and rock art littering the walls. While the guitars are well-polished, the floors still need some work, and one wall sports a kicked-in dent. It’s refreshing to be in a hard-used space – Heavy Riff is no kitschy theme bar, but a rough and authentic microbrewery.
A few high-top tables watch over a dartboard space off the entrance, and side booths flank a worn shuffleboard table in the back. With no stage and no established live acts, Heavy Riff focuses on its digital soundtrack, which is well-curated with more than 1,500 songs – they don’t just loop rock gods’ greatest hits. Forgotten tracks abound, but it still manages not to be fussy or elitist. Expect to hear Rolling Stones juxtaposed with unplugged Nirvana, followed by some Pokey Lafarge or Oasis.
Like the music, the beers are anything but snobby, served in 10-ounce pours and full pints. Session drinkers will revel in easy-sipping, warm-weather options like the Single Successful Rye lager, Just That Simple Belgian tafelbier or the subtle and refreshing Super Session wheat beer. The complex Argonaut APA is a citrusy option, suffering less than most American pale ales from an overdose of hops. With a smooth palate and zesty chocolate finish, the Velvet Underbrown ale is the real standout for those who like a substantial, but not overwhelming, brown. It’s no surprise that this is the brewery’s flagship – I want a direct line to run from Dogtown to my kitchen.
There is also a nominal list of house wines and a more-than-adequate supply of mid- to higher-end hard stuff. The bar is well-stocked with whiskeys (primarily bourbons). Easygoing bartenders are just as happy to mix a Manhattan as to pull a quick pint.
Barbecue options dominate the food menu. Everything down to chili and salads is served with smoked meats (or faux-meats, if that’s your thing). While not a barbecue destination spot, Heavy Riff’s food holds its own. Ordering from the bar, patrons can indulge in cheesy, smoked pulled pork nachos or slow-smoked beef brisket on kaiser rolls. The best of the starters was the tomato-based brisket chili with a devilishly spicy finish that begs for a gulp of beer. The smoked Asian pork wrap was also a winner: tender hunks of pulled pork snuggled in a flour tortilla with crispy coleslaw doused in a creamy Vietnamese pepper sauce.
Neither a singles bar, nor a college hangout, Heavy Riff prioritizes quality over quantity. The laidback, rock ’n’ roll Bierhall atmosphere draws in a regular T-shirt-and-jeans crowd. This isn’t the bar you stop in for dollar longnecks, but at the same time it does have a Fireball Whiskey machine.
While it may not be the best place to hold a deep conversation on literature or quantum physics, Heavy Riff is a nice spot to connect with friends, listen to good music and relax.
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